Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Graphic Violence, some Grisly Images, Strong Sexual Content and Language
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Cormac McCarthy
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Dean Norris & Toby Kebbell
Last year, Ridley Scott showed that he could still direct with the awesome and underappreciated PROMETHEUS. In 2007 and 2009, Cormac McCarthy had two of his stunning novels adapted into award-winning movies. One would hope that a collaboration between these two would turn into an instant classic. The first-rate cast also raises expectations even higher. With a huge amount of talent, also comes the minimal percentage chance that it might be a huge letdown. Sadly, THE COUNSELOR is the biggest disappointment I’ve had in 2013.
The film follows a man simply referred to as The Counselor. He’s a lawyer who’s made the split second decision to get involved in a one-time drug deal with his best friend, Reiner, and a philosophizing middle man, Westray. The Counselor is deeply in love with his girlfriend, Laura, who seems to be willfully naïve to the darker nature of the man she loves. After an execution is carried out and the drug shipment (worth 20 million) is stolen, The Counselor and his friends find themselves with prices on their heads. Fearing for the life of himself and his girlfriend, The Counselor tries to find some way to fix the ever bleak situation, but there’s something more devious at play.
It’s not fair to call THE COUNSELOR an outright failure, because there are moments of absolute brilliance sprinkled in through some of the film. It’s scenes like these that reveal just how fantastic this movie could have been. Cormac McCarthy’s script is a mess that’s riddled with plot-holes and unnatural dialogue. One could argue that THE ROAD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN also had cryptic dialogue spoken throughout, but in those movies the words were insightful. In THE COUNSELOR, it feels like everybody’s saying a whole lot of nothing. To add insult to injury, the final minutes of the movie are also revealed early on in the blatant foreshadowing given by Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt.
Speaking of the cast, I don’t know what Ridley or Cormac did, but not a single person puts in even a serviceable performance. This is made even more upsetting by the cast list itself. Michael Fassbender is usually incredible in any performance he gives, but he’s wooden as the unnamed Counselor. Javier Bardem is flat and given nothing in particular to do. Brad Pitt also shows up for about five scenes in total and doesn’t really add anything to the movie at all. Penelope Cruz is merely the love interest and that’s about it. The worst cast member is Cameron Diaz. She’s good in comedies, but in a serious role, Cameron Diaz delivers the stilted dialogue with a laughably over-the-top performance.
Dean Norris (frequently shown in the previews) appears in a total of one throwaway scene, Toby Kebbell also shows up in an equally pointless moment. That’s the real sin of the movie. It feels like a movie that’s 90% filler. It’s dark, but also dull. The fate of The Counselor himself and Pitt’s Westray are some of the highlights of the film, along with a grisly moment on a deserted highway and a tense shootout. These are great scenes in an otherwise unsatisfying movie. The final scene is anti-climactic and reveals just how much of the movie is riddled with nonsensical decisions. The plot-hole that drives the escalating violence forward is also far too large to overlook.
In THE COUNSELOR, Ridley Scott seems to be trying to emulate a Tony Scott movie and Cormac McCarthy tries to recapture the magic of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. They both miss by a country mile.